Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bronx BP Diaz, Mayor Bloomberg do battle over plans for Kingsbridge Armory

Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz is protesting Mayor Bloomberg's plan to block moving a National Guard unit from the Kingsbridge Armory.
Noonan for News
Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz is protesting Mayor Bloomberg's plan to block moving a National Guard unit from the Kingsbridge Armory.

The battle between Mayor Bloomberg and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. over the Kingsbridge Armory escalated Thursday.

Diaz, backed by a group of elected officials and community leaders, brought the fight to City Hall, where they protested the mayor's plan to block moving a National Guard unit from the armory to an Army reserve center.

The city instead wants to put a homeless shelter in the Sgt. Joseph E. Muller Army Reserve Center in Wakefield, a neighborhood that locals charge is becoming oversaturated with homeless shelters.

Moving the National Guard unit out of the armory would make room for badly needed schools and open the way for armory development, say Diaz and the group.

Diaz killed Bloomberg's development plan to turn the armory into a shopping mall, and on Wednesday effectively blocked the homeless shelter plan by boycotting a key vote.

The reserve center is still owned by the Army, subject to any request for use by the city.

"You can't run for President ... until you lend an ear to the common folk," Diaz said yesterday on the steps of City Hall. "Learn your lesson here."

"It is shameful this administration has ignored the collective voice of the Bronx," added state Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx-Westchester). "Enough is enough. You have to stop."

The mayor claims he is complying with federal regulations governing the disposition of shuttered military property.

"The federal base-closure process gives priority to homeless assistance facilities," said a mayoral spokeswoman.

A Local Redevelopment Authority was formed to decide the center's future, with Diaz and two deputy mayors as the voting body.

Diaz skipped the last two LRA meetings, leaving it without a quorum.

Some have suggested that Bloomberg's insistence on a homeless shelter is revenge for Diaz's scuttling the Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment.

Diaz had insisted armory tenants pay a "living wage" to their workers. The developer, The Related Companies, ditched its plans to redevelop the site.

"The mayor is being vindicative and petty," charged the Rev. Richard Gorman, chairman of Community Board 12. "This is payback for Kingsbridge."

mjaccarino@nydailynews.com

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